Video Platform Crush It TV Entertains During The Pandemic
The entertainment preferences of kids and young adults have seen stark changes in the last decade. The idea of kids using mobile devices used to spark ire from older generations. However, it’s now a more frequent sight that parents have come to accept (albeit in some cases, only grudgingly). This change has led to a variety of other trends, including tech-savviness manifesting itself at earlier ages in students and a greater degree of interactivity expected from the content these young people consume.
The suitability of traditional TV for a younger audience was put to the test recently when Governor Bill Lee announced a partnership with PBS to help Tennessee students learn from home. For entertainment professional Brian Williams, it’s a test that shows that educational content has room to grow. Williams is the co-founder of Crush It TV, a video platform anchored in Nashville. Having cut his teeth in the entertainment business in Los Angeles, Williams has been developing a “new media production” model for quite some time.
“It’s not enough for people to just make content,” Williams tells Launch Engine. “It’s about uniquely serving the needs of your viewership through your content by thinking beyond it, and maximizing how new media platforms can serve the viewer. Making great content means making an entertainment machine that fires on all pistons and invites the audience into like-minded communities.”
Crush It TV was conceived by James Thayer. Thayer worked previously for another Nashville-based production company—the heartland lifestyles digital video channel, Rated Red—that ceased operations after parent companies Verizon and Hearst dissolved their media partnership. Thayer saw a gap in the market for the content created by Rated Red, and shared his observation with Brian as an opportunity to fill the void. Brian helped James by charting a course for business operations, and the two became partners in the venture.
Williams explains, “Crush It TV is similar to Rated Red in that it is being made in Nashville by millennials. But the scope and target market for Crush It TV is a bit broader.” He adds, “We have gathered some of the same influencers and talent from Rated Red, but the goal of Crush It TV is really about empowering the next generation to be bold, [to] try new things, and generally just ‘crush it’ in life.”
Per Brian, the platform being based in Nashville provides advantages. “Innovative production enables us to deliver lots of content in an engaging and cost-effective manner. Additionally, it’s important to note that while there is a lot of content out there, 80 percent or more of the content we see is developed in Los Angeles. That market is well fed. Making content here in Nashville means viewers get to see the world through a slightly different lens.”
Crush It Kids, a division of Crush It TV focused exclusively on youth content, was conceived as an online subscription platform, comparable to Netflix or Hulu, but with a rainbow of content that serves students pre-K through 12 and beyond. Brian explains that the education-meets-entertainment approach to content production separates them from everyone else. He says, “Most platforms are all about content for content’s sake… and the bar to keep people engaged is really high because you are competing with the rest of Hollywood. Our edge is partly in the fact that we focus on education and self-improvement, while still having real entertainment value.”
So, rather than sift through heaps of mindless content on YouTube and pray it’s both wholesome and not completely boring, Crush It Kids users can queue a program on the basics of astronomy and another program on repairing your vehicle. On the other hand, on Crush It TV there are programs for older viewers, which include a cooking show for college students hosted by Chef Keith Batts and the forthcoming Middle Tennessee deep-dive, creator series, “Unvarnished.”
Pictured: Brian Williams (left) and James Thayer (right).
“If you talk to educators, they’ll tell you that there are different educational needs for students as they grow older. We wanted our content to reflect that,” Brian notes. “So, it’s broken into categories of pre-K/elementary, middle school, and high school. We have content about historical heroes, [and] practical tips like organizing a closet. We are doing songwriting classes, contests, and challenges as well. I’m really proud of the eclectic sense that it has, as there’s a buffet of stuff to watch.”
Crush It TV had development plans in Q3 of 2019, with May 2020 as a target date for a formal launch. But as the coronavirus changed plans for a lot of businesses, Brian and his team came to the conclusion that their original plans would have to adapt, as they didn’t foresee households spending money on entertainment options during a global crisis.
“We were in a really tough spot,” Brian recalls. “But I’m one to always keep a positive attitude. For both my personal and professional life, I always like to maintain a sense of humor. I started making jokes with the other team members about what Crush It TV could be during the pandemic. Then it hit us: ‘The Social Distancing Network.’”
That joke did more than bounce around an email chain. It gave Crush It TV value before its official launch. Simply stated, the crew realized that worried children would be trapped in households for weeks, while parents decided what to do and the economy stalled. So, Crush It TV temporarily rebranded as “The Social Distancing Network.” That way, its name could take any sting out of the fear young ones might be facing during quarantine. They also decided to make their content free for those in need. They’re taking donations to help keep editors employed.
“We did it as a response to the need of families during this time,” Brian says. “We wanted to get content out to as many people as possible who need content that is not just mindless. We are not too concerned about making money in this season. However, we do want to keep our people employed, so we are encouraging folks to make donations. They can specify what type of content their donation goes towards making.”
The bet taken by “The Social Distancing Network” is a wager that seems to have paid off. The small army of content-producers was able to get tens of thousands of new viewers since pre-launch. As Crush It TV sunsets its initial platform, it’s taking bigger projects, including plans to-be-announced with the teacher advocacy group, Professional Educators of Tennessee. Brian says that the slowdown hasn’t changed his mission. He explains, “This year is about finding talent, discovering stories, and building an audience for Crush It TV. I think the virus will inspire some of the best storytelling imaginable. I want to be activating the creative class here as much as possible, and I’m excited to see what comes our way as the fog of COVID-19 lifts.”